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Georgia's Redfish - Bull Redfishing

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    Posted: 08/Sep/2012 at 7:23pm

The Dirty Water Series

By: Capt. Richie Lott

Part II: "Red and Gold on the Rips"

Georgia's Redfish - Bull Redfishing



Catching Redfish is an all time favorite for many fishermen and the spring and late summer/fall season offers some of the best there is on the Georgia Coast. Reds over 30 pounds are common in late April, May and then again in September - November each year.

A great deal has been learned about these hard mouthed scavengers over the past few years thanks to conservation efforts and fish surveys headed by Recreational fisheries at the Georgia DNR. Thanks to these efforts, we have learned to locate and catch the bulls in most any conditions.

To me, the most interesting aspects of this fishery are the age and history of these fish. Many of the larger fish are estimated to be over 30 years old and release tens of thousands of eggs annually. Biologists say that 500,000 eggs from each fish is common during spawn throughout the Southeast and Gulf Coast, although only a small percentage actually make it through the life stages.

Biologists say Redfish eggs float for 20 to 30 hours before larval reds emerge carrying the yolk sac that sustains them for three days. Then, they begin feeding on tiny zooplankton. The beginning of life for millions of redfish is an intricate process that can occur every three to five days during the spawning season. With this and the many other characteristics of this mighty fish in mind, it is important to abide by the rules governing them. Learn how to handle them for proper release without harm and help preserve the fishery for years to come.

With all the science aside and stamped in our memory for preservation, the brutal battle and sheer fun of catching these large fish is addictive. This sport draws new anglers to our coast each season as the word spreads amongst anglers and Charter Captains. It's action like no other when the Georgia Redfish bite is on, and let there be no question that it's my personal favorite! 


Spring and Fall Prove Best for Georgia Redfish 


Spring and fall is the time for the bull redfish to be feeding around sounds, sandbars and larger river mouths that form a point or a rip. I know many anglers tend to favor this "tag and brag" type fishing over any other. Personally, I always opt for larger species of fish, especially on a charter fishing trip with clients who don't get to see much saltwater in their lives.

Fall season seems to produce larger numbers of fish, but many Anglers overlook spring altogether. Many Anglers on the Georgia Coast have caught a few here and there during the spring while shark or whiting fishing. I have targeted the fall season fish since childhood from the boat and surf, but over the past few years, I got serious about catching Redfish in the spring and I have learned that their patterns are a little different each season and I still strive to l earn more each season.

One must be willing to relocate and anchor several times to find the sweet spot. Even if you know the fish are there, you have to get bait somewhere close to them. If they refuse to eat, move around the area to different spots in stealth mode until you find the bite. Keep in mind, when fishing in 3-10 feet of water, your outboard makes a lot of noise when you start it up and move. Drift to your spots with the current and ease your anchor over the side quietly as you make your moves from shoal to shoal.  


Finding Georgia Bull Redfish 


Some Anglers fish deep water and others target shoals, sandbars or rips looking for big Redfish. Finding these fish is an obviously crucial part of the quest. If you are shallow water fishing, you won't need the aid of your depth recorder to "mark" the fish on the bottom. Your outboards will be hitting the bottom in the swells, and you know then… You are fishing for Georgia Bull Redfish. Shallow water fishing for Redfish in Georgia may be the easiest (but most dangerous) due to the vast amount of shoal areas on the Georgia coast around sounds and inlets. Many of those shoals you motor around nervously to get into deeper water and ride past the redfish as most times, they are holding directly in the break or on the edge of one end of a break. If the breaking water bothers you, get on the down current side of the bar where the fish would "fall off" with the tide and/or any bait that may be coming through that shoal.

Contrary to popular belief, we have found this type of fishing DOES NOT require clear, clean water to produce numbers of redfish. In fact, it seems like the dirty water is better. When it's dirty, crabs and other crustaceans are stirred from the ocean floor around full and new moon phases offering an easy helping for Reds. Swift moving water seems to get the fish feeding on a flood or ebb tide. This creates ideal feeding conditions for big Redfish near beaches, oceans and inlets and this prime time also carries the girls eggs far into the estuary system where chances of survival are best. The Redfish know exactly when to lay their eggs and you want to be there when they start to eat.

Any area where breaking water churns just off the beach or a sandbar forms a rip line is normally a prime location for Georgia Redfish. Just keep your boat out of any safety or swim zones that may be close to shore. Anchor your boat near the break, shoal or rip as safely possible. Your bait needs to be cast into the breaking or shallow water, so you must position your boat accordingly. These big Reds will lurk in 3 - 10 ft. of water to feed, but we have caught them in less than knee-deep water on many occasions.

The fish are also found in deep water channels and sounds or around fishing piers, too. Jacksonville and Fernandina boast droves of bulls in deep water. They are caught in the shipping channels and other deepwater areas, especially down along the St. Johns River. Lots of Anglers target the bull Redfish in deeper water, but as you can tell, I am partial to shallow water. I believe the Bull Reds are all over, but it's all about what lay of land you get used to fishing. 


Bait Choices for Georgia Redfish 


I have experimented with lots of baits to catch big Redfish, and the truth is, they will bite just about anything fresh you present to them when they are on the feed. When the fish get lockjaw, you have to look at the results of all your experimentation and attempt to make a good choice. If your bait is fresh, you may consider a move if the fish bite gives out.

There are several redfish guides in Georgia, including myself, who will agree that there are three cut baits that will produce Georgia Redfish when no other will. Fresh Menhaden, Bluefish or Whiting. Always bring along your light spinning gear and fish a squid piece on the bottom, and normally you'll catch a Bluefish or Whiting to chunk up as cut bait.

Capt. Jay Childers, formerly the manager of St. Simons Marina has been fishing for Redfish for over 35 years and prefers Mullet or Menhaden. His third choice is a blue crab due its durability on the hook. "We used Roe mullet out of Florida that worked well for us in the fall of 2003. Last year was definitely a Mullet year for the bulls on my boat", Jay said. Capt. Jay also mentioned that fresh is always better, no matter what your bait may be.

All the pro guides I have fished with and talked with over the years have a favorite choice and reason for using particular bait. Most Guides in our area prefer Menhaden over any other bait. The Reds can be caught on a variety of baits live and dead, but Menhaden is at the top of the list.

I personally watched Capt. Teddy Elrod catch over nine big redfish off St. Simons Island one morning on Yellow Tails. A Yellow Tail is the most aggravating, small "trash fish" you could ever catch on rod and reel, especially while Trout fishing. I wouldn't have given a thought to trying the shrimp stealing hindrance, but he was low on bait one morning and had no choice. Old Yellow led him to a great day of fishing for his anglers on board and he landed more Reds than anyone that day.

Georgia Redfish love Crabs and Mullet chunks as well, but Mullet or Crabs are not on the top of my list. I try to fish a little of everything, but I still have my favorites that have worked for me for years.

Personally, I've caught more big Redfish using Menhaden (pogies) than any other bait, but fresh cut Whiting runs a close second! As with any fresh cut bait, Sharks like to eat it as well. Most times, they'll be Atlantic Sharpnose and other Coastal Sharks in the spring and fall. They feel like a Red when they bite and run, so unless you see that big boil on the surface during the battle, don't count on it to be a Red. 


Georgia Redfish Tackle for Success 


Rod and Reel:

The Rod and Reel Combo

Shakespeare Ugly Stik Custom (14-17 Medium Class Spinning Rod)

PENN SSM 650 Spinning Reel

Load your Reel with Berkely Fireline (65 Pound)


Your Terminal Tackle:

90 -Pound Snap Swivel AND Sinker Slider

3 ft. length of 60-80# - Pound Monofilament Leader

10/O Circle Hook (Helps Prevent Gut Hook)

4-6 OZ. Pyramid Sinker/Weight


Your Rig:

Slide your sinler slider on first. After you tie the snap swivel on your main line, tie a surgeon's loop at one end of your 3 ft. leader. Then just tie on a circle hook with your favorite knot, and you're set. Snap on your weight to the sinker slider and you're all set. This rig will allow you to Redfish the breakers without the weight rollinig downhill with the current. 


A Word on successful Releasing of Redfish  

Why can't we keep large Georgia Redfish? The purpose is to reduce pressure on spawning size redfish. Redfish begin spawning at an average over 20-inches. By that size a large portion of them move offshore. If redfish were managed like many other fish, (such as speckled trout) with a minimum size large enough to allow them to spawn at least once before being caught, the inshore fishery would not be near as good as it is. The larger females are protected to spawn over and over again and the girls come back to the same areas each season to spread their eggs.

If a big Redfish is removed from the water for hook removal, support the body weight from underneath as you remove the fish from the water while handling the fish as little as possible. Get your hook out, and get that fish back quickly to prevent excess stress. Be sure to revive the fish until you feel him struggling to leave your hands, and then give a push straight down or let the fish leave your hands freely into the current. Many anglers use a Rubber Landing net to bring the fish onboard to prevent slime loss off the Red's body and this also gives the fish full support of bodyweight throughout the net webbing.

If you have a "Floater" that won't swim off, try to revive the fish before leaving it for dead. Often you can tap them with the tip of your fishing rod and they take off. Redfish are a hearty fish, but I have seen them come floating by in the sound or rivers. When a dead bull redfish is sighted, it has probably fallen victim to improper catch and release amongst other things.

Remember, take a Kid Georgia Redfish Fishing..









Edited by RichieLottOutdoors - 08/Sep/2012 at 7:25pm
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